The Carolina Panthers are enjoying their bye week in the best position possible at 4-0. The last time this team was undefeated was 2003; when we made it to the Super Bowl I’d say that is good karma. Many around the league have called us “the worst undefeated team due to the lack of competition we faced early in the year. My response to that is we don’t make the schedule and the reality is in any sport anyone can win on any day. I will echo head coach Ron Rivera’s sentiments when he said we are not going to apologize for being undefeated.
Critics can say what they want, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing for us, we’ve already faced a ton of adversity with injuries to key players and a young receiving core. The team has shown a ton of grit and determination here’s a look at how we have stacked up against the rest of the league.
The offense came into the year with big question marks due to the loss of Kelvin Benjamin the team’s number one target. Another big concern was the revamped offensive line protecting Cam Newton, who has taken the most hits of any quarterback since entering the league in 2011! Through four games we’ve done an excellent job protecting Newton as our offensive line ranks second in the league right now; helping propel Newton to this MVP caliber start.
As for our young wide receiving core there’s been some growing pains, but they keep developing and becoming more reliable, especially Ted Ginn JR. Our offense ranks eighth in the league putting up 27 points per game very respectable for an offense that had many questions. The one concern I do have moving forward as the competition stiffens if drops continue to plague our offense, but our young guys have stepped up and will continue to develop and get better. Also tight end Greg Olsen has been very reliable for this offense he is one of the most underrated players in the league.
Cam Newton has put this team on his back early on this season with his arm and his legs. He already has nine total touchdowns and just two interceptions, both of which were not his fault. It’s been really fun to watch him lead this offense; my favorite part about what he’s done this far is his footwork has been a lot better. When he has bad stretches he has a tendency to throw off his back foot, causing turnovers that has not been the case thus far in 2015 knock on wood.
As I said before the offensive line has been amazing allowing just seven sacks through the first four games of the year and it’s not a coincidence that Newton has played great. This next stretch of games will test us in every way, but I am really confident in what Newton and the offense has been able to do and I’m ready to watch this team shut the critics up and get the respect this team deserves.
The defense has once again been the backbone of the team thus far in 2015. The team ranks fifth in the league in points allowed at 17.8 points per game and have been ball hawks with a +8 turnover margin allowing our offense to have multiple short fields. Cornerback Josh Norman has quickly become elite and is most definitely the best defensive player in the NFL early on this season. He already has two pick sixes and one game saving interception really amazing what he has been able to become and really needs to be paid to make sure he stays in Carolina blue. Josh Norman has helped lead this defense, but we’ve played great team defense overall everyone swarms to the ball keeping opposing offenses from getting into a rhythm.
Just to show you what I mean Thomas Davis has two interceptions Kurt Coleman also has added an interception. Opposing quarterbacks have experienced nightmares when facing this defense. The crazy part about it is we have played most of the season without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly who is still battling back from a concussion. Just imagine when we get him back and Jared Allen gets more acclimated to the system will become an even bigger headache for opponents.
This unit has struggled a little bit getting a pass rush, but the bye week has come at a perfect time for this team getting the opportunity to get healthy and for some new guys to learn the system better. I feel very confident in this group as we head into the most crucial stretch of our season.
A Look Ahead
There has been a ton of positives thus far in 2015; I’m very excited to see how we stack up against a very stiff competition we will face the remainder of the year. In my view we must go at least 2-2 in the stretch to continue the momentum we built early this season. The next four games we face Seattle we have played tough over the past couple of seasons but have fallen just short. This year Seattle looks very vulnerable on the offense is either the ball and the Legion of doom looks suspect losing a 17 point lead today versus Bengals and losing three fourth-quarter leads. This is just unthinkable from what we’ve come to expect out of Seattle.
They are very tough at home so it should be a very closely contested game, but I think things are going better for us right now. Then we get the Eagles Colts and Packers every single one of them are going to be hard-fought no matter the outcome I like our chances stay in the games and silence those critics and prove our worth. I’m very excited to see how this plays out! Go Panthers!